Our Mission:  To restore private lands to their natural wetland state for desert flora, fauna and migrating waterfowl.

June 19, 2021 – White Ibis spotted recently at Sandia Wetlands.  Ponds were down for regular maintenance.  These three found one of the last puddles.  


June 5, 2021 – Updates of wetlands / grasslands restoration work underway below the Balmorhea Lake dam.  A partnership of Sandia Wetland Project and the Texas Native Seeds Program, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute.  Good stuff is happening.  Check back for further progress.






May 24, 2021 – Sandia Wetlands Project will be partnering with the Texas Native Seeds Program, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute in a habitat restoration project on private lands at Lake Balmorhea.  The seed mix for five acres is dominated by native grasses with some native shrub and wildflower added to the mix and is designed for the type of soils at the site.  More wildflower would be desirable but seeds currently are in short supply.

This is very exciting news for us!  Stay tuned for images and updates.   

May 13, 2021 – Birding trip report to Lake Balmorhea provided by Steven Cardiff:  

With Donna L. Dittmann, overcast becoming clear by about 11:30 AM, 59-72 F, wind NE 5-10 mph. Lake level relatively high with good inflow. Drove most of lake perimeter plus on-foot covering roads/brush in SW corner. New alfalfa ag fields being developed west of west levee, with some new ponds below the levee. Some other brushy areas had been recently burned and/or bulldozed. High counts based on running tallies.  

To see the impressive list of sightings click on the link below.  Thank you Steven!

Steven Cardiff Check List, Lake Balmorhea

May 16, 2021 – All birds of a feather or no feathers are welcome at Sandia Springs Wetlands Project Balmorhea, Texas.  If you are thinking of visiting just click on our “VISIT” tab for directions and a map.  When here please sign our guest registry and note your bird sightings.  Enjoy!


April 23, 2021 – Recent trip report including wonderful images from Michael Gray during his recent trip to Balmorhea Lake and its new adjoining wetlands.

After leaving the high elevations we drove HWY 505 and on to Bill and Jill’s Ranch west of Valentine before doing rest of scenic loop back to Linda Hedge’s, Madge Linsey’s and our house before hunting for the Gray, Common Black Hawk and Zone-tail Hawks – all hid from us but a Zone-tailed Hawk did present itself – Then on to final part of our day at Balmorhea – Our last stake-out, Burrowing Owl borrow panned out! unlike most of our staked out hawk nests. The highlight at Balmorhea Lake (our endpoint) was the 50 plus Lesser Nighthawks feeding over the reworked marsh of northwest side of Balmorhea Lake with an incredible sunset.

(click on image to enlarge)

April 25, 2021 – Work and progress continues with development of wetlands immediately adjoining Balmorhea Lake.  Stay tuned for further updates.


March 21, 2021 – Exciting news!  Sandia Wetlands Project is participating in the development of wetlands immediately adjacent to Balmorhea Lake, Balmorhea Texas.  We are currently root plowing between the lake and Balmorhea.  The dam on that side of the lake leaks and is being developed for prime habitat for wetland birds.  Sandhill Cranes already been sighted in the area.

January 9, 2021 – Happy New Year Everyone!  Are you experiencing “Pandemic Doldrums”?  Blow the cobwebs out and visit our Sandia Wetlands Project.  All are welcome.  If you do visit please register in our guest book at the alcove and note your bird sightings.  All comments are welcome.

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.


 October, 2020 – Highlights from Sandia Wetlands Project – Balmorhea, Texas.

Pond and project maintenance is always on our “To Do” list.


Kettles as big as Texas.  Image taken at Sandia earlier this month.  Article from Bridwatchingdaily.com.  (click on link)

Kettles As Big As Texas


People and Views

Of Course Bird Sightings at Sandia and elsewhere.  A big thank you to Michael Gray for his world class images.  (click on image to enlarge)  

We hope to see you at Sandia Wetlands Project.  If you visit please come to our kiosk and sign in.  Note the birds you have sighted.



September 17, 2020 – Migrating bird die off is occurring in the southwest more so in New Mexico.  More here:

Unprecedented Migratory Bird Die-Off

September 12, 2020 – Michael Gray, Cecilia Riley made a recent trip to Balmorhea and Sandia Wetlands Project.  On the road into the project they stopped at a large Cottonwood with water from an old canal which was busy with birds to the extent they spent much of the day spotting 57 species of birds.  Including eight warbler species, Tropical & Western Kingbirds, Western Wood Peewee, Gray, Willow, Scissor-tail, Vermillion Flycatchers and Say’s and Eastern phoebes.

Mike shared some of his images.  Thank you Mike!

(click on image to enlarge)

August 28, 2020 – Just In:  Lots of activity going on at Balmorhea Lake  rebuilding islands, creating rookeries and habitat increasing the number of birds using the lake.  Nests below are Red-winged Blackbird or Grackle.

August 28, 2020 – Red Wing Black Bird nest in cattails taken at Sandia


August 30, 2020 – Time for maintenance on our various ponds.  Brush, cattail and other unwanted growth to be removed, stacked then burned.

August 31, 2020 – Steve Cardiff & Donna Dittmann.  LSU Museum of National Science and soon to be our neighbors.  See Steve’s sighting list (link below) from their recent visit to Balmorhea Lake.

Thank you for sharing Steve!

 S. Cardiff Lake Balmorhea Sighting List

Steve & Donna


September 2, 2020 – Following are from Sandia’s guest registry for recent months.  On private property Sandia Wetlands Project is open to the public.  For directions go to our “Visit” tab above.  You are welcome here.  Please sign in.

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Borderlands Research Institute, Crustacean Research At Sandia Project

_MG_4312 _MG_4325 _MG_4369 _MG_4413

Ryan Anthony is a M.S. Thesis Candidate with Sul Ross State University’s Borderland Research Institute.  Along with other sites in the region Ryan is studying our project Sandia Wetlands, specifically crustaceans that provide food resources to the shorebirds and waterfowl during a high energy demanding migratory phase in their life cycles.  Sandia is a unique small wetland with big potential as one of the only wetlands in this part of Texas.  Ryan was born and raised in Pakistan.  His home state is Arizona and is an Iraqi war veteran.  In these images Ryan is taking sediment samples, the last image back in the BRI lab.  Images taken by Bill Broyles, Texas Master Naturalist with Borderlands Research Institute.

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Photos – August 2012

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Rare Bird Sighting at Sandia Springs Wetlands

According to “Birds of the Trans-Pecos” author Kelly Bryan,  the Marbled Godwit is listed as “Rare” – Seldom observed; may not occur each year during season indicated.

So if you are interested in a “rare” shorebird,  the Sandia Wetland Project has produced it’s first. It was observed midday 04/21/12 in the center unit by Dave Hedges and Ellen Weinacht.

Park in the parking area and approach the center unit  quietly on  foot from the north side. Binoculars will work fine but a scope will put him in your lap.

This is a very large shorebird with a 30 inch wingspan and a large slightly upturned two tone bill. When probing for food one would think he’s drilling for oil. They go deep.

A real thrill to have this occurrence on the Wetland.


Today, Tues. April 24, 2012  GREAT NEWS—Report from Dave Hedges—Two extremely unusual bird sightings for our region have turned up at the newly restored Sandia Wetlands:  Marbled Godwit (4/23) and today Whimbrel (4/24), Kelly Bryan informed that the Whimbrel is very unusual for here.

Also the newest unit added to the wetlands has water being delivered into it at this moment.

They wetlands are doing what Dave and all of us predicted.  Add water and species lost nearly 100 years ago will return.

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March 8, 2012

Unit 4 filled with Nature Conservancy water

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March 5, 2012

Steve Garcia the rock man, and his #1 assistant Billy Gallego watch the first water go into Unit 4.

Unit 1 and Unit 4 are attracting shorebirds.

Madge’s snag.

Pickup by Unit 4 (which is the same size as Units 1-3) looking from the west.


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Visited by Nature Conservancy

As you know, the 120 acre/feet of water from Lake Balmorhea to which The Nature Conservancy is entitled is currently dedicated to the Sandia Springs project.  The project currently consists of 3 units covering a total of approximately 4 acres with another 2-acre unit proposed for the future.  The project includes a parking and observation area adjacent to the county road for wildlife observers.

Based upon my observations and the discussions of future plans for the project, I believe this to be a very good use of our water and very consistent with our mission, given the potential for migratory bird and other wildlife habitat, and especially in the context of historic wetland loss in our area.  During my brief time there, I observed a lesser yellowlegs, white-crowned sparrows, killdeer, gadwalls, a Mexican mallard, and dragonflies.

Please be aware that the TGMN committee for this project consisting of Ellen, Mary Fenton, Susan Penney, Barbara Novovitch, Mary Malmgrem, and others was very impressed with your recent recommendations regarding tree species and other vegetation.  They plan to resume this planning in the near future and may be interested in calling on you again.  If I can be of any help in this regard, please let me know.

Chris Pipes

Davis Mountains Project Director

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The 2 poles 6 ft apart in the middle are for the kiosk Dave M is building.  The two poles on either side of the side road are for a sign “No Vehicles” or a chain to prevent vehicles.



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Christmas 2011 at the Wetlands

This gallery contains 6 photos.

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Level Wetlands

Yesterday the Sandia Wetland was leveled- bare to the bone.   We will begin filling it this week and see what we attract.

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